Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Karakalpakstan and Uzbekistan

Into Karakalpakstan. Karakalpakstan is to Uzbekistan as Scotland is to Britain and people here will tell you they’re Karakalpak first, Uzbek second. I instantly like it here. Again the language is similar to Turkish so learning some Turkish pays off again. It is soooo chilled out here. As I cycle past I get a polite nod and wave from the locals, a refreshing change to the screams and shouts that you get in say, Azerbaijan, where they treat you like a freak show on wheels. It's alot cleaner than some other places i've been through and they ride bikes out here, big old one speed clunkers. I've had loads of races with the locals and lost most of them, most embrassingly to a little kid who flew past me casually throwing nuts into his mouth, he was so small he couldn't reach the pedals from the saddle and was sitting on the rack over the rear wheel.

It’s also incredibly unwesternised here. Visit Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan. All commerce is done out of three massive markets. The “shops” that exist don’t even have signs outside. You won’t find one western brand anywhere, no Cola, no Pepsi.

It's a long, flat and fairly decent road to central Uzbekistan from here. Cycling through the fertile plains reminds me oddly of Isaan, Thailand but with cotton instead of rice. There is one large swathe of desert to cross from Khiva to Bukara, where I am now. One afternoon a car pulled up in front of me, all the men got out, gave me a small amount of money each and sent me on my way. Days spent in the desert must have left me looking rough!

I'm about to set off to Tashkent via Samarkand on a tourist trail of sorts, the Silk road. You don't need me to tell you about the wonders of the Silk road. It was bitterly cold up in Kazakhstan but it’s warmed up nicely as I’ve gone south. It’s 1st Nov today and about 26 degrees outside. So much for those severe Central Asian winters then.

The cheapest (500 som = 20 pence including unlimited tea) and most chilled out hotel i've ever stayed in. Karakalpakstan.

My bike, rescued from the bike shed at work for 40 pounds. Not bad eh.

Serious public transport for the Uzbek desert.


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